“I Don’t Know How You Do It!”

Many of the moms I’ve met since moving to my area in LA have just one child.  When I mention my three, they look straight into my eyes, sometimes shake their head slowly and say, “I don’t know how you do it.”

It mostly makes me feel validated for all that I do, since I often feel invisible and my “work” only gets noticed if I were to drop the ball.  Other times, it makes me feel like confessing, “If you only knew…I’m cracking these days.”  Wait, I did say that aloud, just this week, to my kids’ basketball coaches (dads of young ones) as they laughed about cracking too except I wasn’t laughing.

Summer parenting has been A LOT in a way I don’t have the patience to get into, and this is with the sons in various activities, not lounging around under my roof.  For one, I didn’t know how chauffeuring them around town, on a schedule, which sounds passive enough, would increase my anxiety.  Girl is two years old and ackin’ very two-ish from her middle carseat, demanding all the songs and snacks and no, different song!, and even hugs as I drive because Mom sitting in the driver seat is too far away.

I’d been feeling a nudge to CREATE SPACE for a while now as our lives are packed and when the nudge became a shove after a couple Facebook posts affected me, I removed Facebook from my phone.  The bad outweighed the good for me, for now, and there was no need for my already crammed mind to be filled with acquaintances’ summer travel or my heart affected again by seeing updates from those I was once close to, now like strangers from atrophy.

I’m not sure the point of this post but it has been TOO long since I’ve written more than To Do lists and I need to get back to doing the things that I love.

I wholly appreciate how the Lord knows what I need in big and small ways.  He sent me an unexpected encouragement through a stranger (a dad) who said he saw me at my boys’ sports camp, marching in, wearing the Girl, motioning quietly to the staff that I’m pulling out the boys to take them to swim.  He told me that he was so impressed that he even texted his wife about me, saying man, you should have seen this mom!  He added that he knows how moms don’t get affirmed enough for all that they do while dads get lionized for just being with their kids in public.  Seems like a small thing but it nearly made me tear up.

God also brought me a new friend I was able to walk and talk with, with a total of zero kids between the two of us, and it was such a gift.  After moving here about a year ago, I joined so many groups, thirsting for connection.  I think I found some support and community but not the deeper, individual connections that might take a while to build (it’s only been a year).  I missed the intimacy and natural chemistry of talking with a few someones who just get me and vice versa.  I miss the handful of close friends I did life with in NYC though yes, I know I pined away for CA while there.

I told the new friend about something enraging that happened to me yesterday and instead of the usual advice to just shake it off, reminders about how blessed I am otherwise, or other directives to please just make it all better by not spending one more second expressing truthfully how it made me feel, she gifted me with, “OF COURSE THIS SHOULD MAKE YOU MAD.  OF COURSE!  YOU’VE BEEN INJURED.”

And again, when I shared with an acquaintance, and he responded by inspecting my hand and remarking, “How bad were your knuckles bleedin’ when you hit her?” (I didn’t hit anyone but his deadpan question just made my morning after a terrible day yesterday).

Here’s to the rest of the summer:  creating space, creating, nature, quiet, nudges and shoves, deep breaths, letting go, and breaking bad cycles.  P.S. Facebook keeps sending me emails to jump back in, even asking me if I’m having trouble logging in.  That’s wrong!

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Del Taco Talk-os

Another week (nearly) under our belts.  Thank You, Lord.

By Friday afternoon, boy, are we marinated and cooked.  I can hear baby girl mewing for me from her crib with a weird early wake-up but she needs to nap longer so I will leave her be while I try to crank out a post.

This past week, I watched a video of a mom stating that the five foundations for a strong family are:

  1. Love
  2. Acceptance
  3. Communication
  4. Play
  5. Presence

Which one are you strongest in?  Which one do you need to work on?

I thought “love” as a catch-all topic was odd as it seemed more like the big umbrella under which 2-5 should fall.  We all love our kids fiercely.

Without overthinking it, I am strongest in communication while we are outside of the home.  I may loathe all things domestic but I will constantly talk to my kids about their feelings – in the car, taking a walk, taking a walk to Del Taco.  In the car is a big one.

Though Kevin teases me for being so Oprah, he does appreciate that I talk to my kids about their roses and thorns, their highs and lows, and set the mood for our family to talk more.

Life is only going to get busier as the kids grow older.  So many deadlines to calendar that one night, when I unexpectedly fell asleep at the same time as the boys, I only woke up to yell down to Kevin, “Can I afford to go back to sleep?  What does our calendar say?  Anything time sensitive for tomorrow?”

And yes, part of our busy, is because we chose it.  Chose to join groups and activities that we just don’t want to cut out during this life stage.  Maybe we will have to reassess soon but for now, everything we’ve joined is life-giving.

Looking back at this past week, everything blurs together, all the photos on my phone – sports, church, school, library – but for some reason, our first impromptu walk to Del Taco for post-homework mini-shakes stands out as a memorable moment in the mundane.

One thing I miss about NYC is how we walked lots.  So I told the kids that the boys can scooter and Olive can ride in her toy car to Del Taco, if they finish their homework fast.  We went for a walk, including my still-healing left pinky toe.  Olive clearly delighted in this break from routine, an unusual walk to a “restaurant” with her brothers zigzagging past her, and back.

While there, I told the boys to take turns, practice asking for things politely while I watched from afar:  “Excuse me, may we have some more napkins, please?  Thank you,” to split fries three-ways without fighting, to throw away all of our trash without dropping the tray in the trash, to be mindful of others’ space when we park our scooters and car.

Ellis held the door open for all of us plus a lady who never even glanced at him or offered a “thank you” even as he used his entire body to keep the door open.  “That lady never said ‘thank you,’ Mom.”

So I shared with him about how non-thankers are also my pet peeve and how I once ran after a man in Manhattan to return all the cash that blew out of his back pocket on a particularly windy morning, and he might have said, “Oh,” at most, even after I went out of my way to return it to him.  I told him about how this world is full of all kinds of people, including rude people who may hurt us, and how we will also hurt others, both unintentionally and intentionally.

Then on the walk back, a senior citizen dropped all the contents of his wallet on the sidewalk so while the scene barely began to register with me as I barked at the kids, “Don’t scooter into each other!  Watch the street.  Don’t scooter into sister!  Watch Mom’s foot – I can’t afford another injury!” Micah had already ran to the gentleman and started picking up his credit cards for him.

I told him that was very kind and proactive of him.

Okay, Olive is crying lots so I gots to go.  Marvel in the mundane.  Watch for wonder.  I’d like to think those are my strengths as an imperfect, mistake-making mama.

Happy International Women’s Day!

 

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The Far Side

Couple nights ago, I visited a school I had not ever been to for an orientation for Micah.  I walk really fast, maybe since always and for sure after 13 years in NYC.

After the meeting ended, my speedy feet had already taken me to the other side of the large campus before I realized I was the only person there, in the enveloping dark, under the supernatural snow moon.

Apparently, everyone had walked out through a different exit.  My exit was padlocked and I could not see or hear another human being, or even imagine another exit as my mind was focused on running back to the building to look for someone, anyone.  Had I missed an announcement while I was using the restroom about only one available exit?

Ahh, surely I would run into someone else who had walked out this way.  I mean, there’s no way I would be locked in an elementary school after a meeting.  Yeah, someone else must be packing up or using the restroom before they head out.

I run back to the building where the meeting was held and frantically bang on the door.  Now, too much time had passed.  Almost no chance anyone else was still on campus.  I see the janitor’s cart inside but no janitor.  He has left for the night.

I start yelling, “Hello?!  Anyone?  Please?  I’m locked out!  Help!”  (Louder).  (LOUDER).  I don’t give a *&^( no more.  Let the neighbors call the police on the hysterical lady.  I need them to.  I continue banging on the door until my fist feels bruised.  “HELLO!?”

I call Kevin to tell him to get ready to call the police.  Make a plan.  “I’mma have to break something or climb the fence and you know my ankle still not right!”  I hear the kids ask him what Mom is calling about and why she sounds so loud.

From the corner of my eye, I see movement.  Clothed movement!  Human!  I run over to the White Man in Shining Armor (red T-shirt) on the phone.  Why the hero gotta be another White man but still so relieved to see him:  “Hiii!  Ahhhh, I’m so glad to see you!!  So glad.  I was panicking because I thought I was locked out.  Can you help me get out of here?  But how we gonna get out of here?!  Do you have keys?”

“Um yeah, you just walk around and open that door right there.”

“Right WHERE?!  Aren’t they all locked?  Go back to that main building?  I tried!  I was screaming and banging.  Side building?  I can’t see.  My night vision is shot.”

“Right in front of us, here.”  (Pointing to the part of the fence around the corner from us)

“Thank you!  Oh, wow, THANK YOU!”

And just like that, I walk right out in to the night, into the free world, to my beloved minivan, my silver chariot awaiting.

Oh, this was a meeting for newly identified-as-gifted students in the district.  And their clearly gifted parents.

far side comic

 

 

 

 

Ebenezer Stone Valentine’s

I’ve always had a thing for nature.  Going on nature walks alone or with the family always puts me in a calmer, happier mood.  I like picking up special rocks or shells though it’s been a minute.

So, no surprise that I got excited to discover this passage recently:

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  – 1 Samuel 7:12 NASB (emphasis added)

And I became even more excited when we drove by this gorgeous scene this past rainy Sunday afternoon in LA (Tujunga) on the way to a church event.  The boys were gracious enough to allow Kevin to make an inconvenient U-turn in the rain, so that photo-loving Mom could memorialize something once again (Olive had no say or clue as her car seat is still rear-facing):

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Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone named Ebenezer, they would remember how the Lord had helped them and acted on their behalf.

When I saw these striking stones set in these eye-catching formations, right by a street named Elmhurst, same name as the NYC area our old church was located, I, too, remembered.

“Guys, we have to always look back and remember how God helped us.  Remember when we were in limbo for 37 days last July, when we didn’t know if we could actually move to LA or if we should look for back-up housing in NYC?  And now we live here, driving everywhere with oceans of parking and drivers who hardly honk.”

As I wonder about the future once again, our hopes for 2019, and I become confused or anxious, I have to breathe and remember.  God will help.  Maybe not exactly the way I pictured, but He will.

(Only after my three minute iPhone photo shoot, I noticed a “No Trespassing” sign).

Happy Valentine’s 2019!

 

1.9.19: Cute Date Alert and Reminder to Be Present

Happy New Year once again!  I like to use this greeting until February.

Yesterday was cute date 1.9.19.

I am struggling with finding the time to do everything I need to do and want to do.  My brain is never in rest mode as it is always thinking in list form, for the things I need or want to do for the three kids, for the family or home as a whole, or for myself.

Even during a morning walk with my baby girl, exploring the still-new ‘hood, my mind was elsewhere, wondering what my next steps are and how I can accomplish them this year.  I have to catch myself and come back in to the sunny moment, as we pick up branched berries and rocks to study.

The era of the smartphone is not good for my inability to shut my mind off.  I even borrowed “How to Break Up with Your Phone” from the library but only skimmed it as I got distracted, probably by my phone, or the kids, or other more pressing or enjoyable matters, and had to return it on its due date as another patron had requested it.

Olive was my cute date to her new Mommy and Me class this year, on cute date 1.9.19, and as I set her down, I happened to check my phone “real quick” and then became preoccupied thinking about more To Do’s that the phone check had sparked.

On New Year’s Eve 2018, I jotted down some notes using the Rule of Life, first introduced to us through our old church in NYC.  Here are the steps:

Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight  (e.g. people, places, activities).   Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don’t censor yourself.  Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!
Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ.  This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively – such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.
Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impact your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)

 

I was able to use this as a tool to recognize that in Step 1, rest, being out in nature, doing life with others, writing, reading, prayer and more were crucial for me to be healthy.

Step 2:  excessive social media scrolling and phone-checking and stacking up my days so that there were no margins to breathe were harmful to me and anxiety-inducing.  Kevin, a peacekeeper to a fault, shared that for him, arguing with me was in his Step 2 as something he needs to avoid.  That actually helped me understand his mindset more as I am more confrontational by nature.

And Step 3 is tricky as we are in a season of life where a toddler, as ladylike as she is, zaps our energy and our two growing boys also need us in different ways.  So in one sense, this is a reminder for us to slow it down and not pack it in, but Kevin and I both like to do a lot: participate in different activities and spend time with quality people so that we are not an island unto our family unit.  The key is always balance:  much needed rest, fun, time together as a couple, time alone on our own, but wait, how about one-on-one with each kid, de-cluttering, organizing, grocery-shopping, and more?

On the one hand, I’m excited because the reason I feel overwhelmed is not only because there is so much I need to do, but WANT to do.

Lord, help me to slow my thoughts down and be present; to breathe and know that You are God and I am not.  Even if I drop the ball on some time-sensitive registration or research, it is okay.  I need not constantly check my phone or have my phone rule my life.

Thank You for a new year to fill up.  And thank You that I need not be master of the universe though I try to control my little household.

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Happy 2019: Hashtag Blessed AND…

Happy New Year!  May your 1-9, be beyond fine.

On the first day of 2019, I found out that some friends are expecting their third child.  I was so surprised though I already knew that when people say they are SO done, that means nothing because life.

I became immediately excited for them and also nostalgic for that expectant stage I always idealize because hey, HUMAN LIFE INSIDE ME!

I wanted to tell my friends just how joyful being a mom to three is.  Joyful AND crazy.  Blissful AND overwhelming.  “AND’s” are always allowed.

The kids are still on Winter Break, which is a new phenomenon for these newbie Californians as we are used to going back to school promptly on January 2nd, immediately after the countdown and the dduk-mandoo-gook.

After fixing the baby some eggs and the boys some Spam kimbap for breakfast, we rushed to a local Japanese Tea Garden before baby’s nap hit.  This one doesn’t do car naps so we rush home for crib naps, a totally new experience.

The garden is a gem I was delighted to bring my family to, as it was one of my favorites decades ago when I lived in L.A.

“Don’t throw the pine cones into the pond.

Make sure they only land on the grass.

Don’t creep close to the water on that stone perimeter.  Back up.  More.  Watch out for your sister.

I said, no pine cones in the pond.

Olive, let’s walk around the lady trying to get her sunbath on.”

Clearly, a different experience from visiting alone as a single 20-something.

My thoughts are all over the place as I know the baby will wake up soon and the boys might break out into a fight even though they are currently playing quietly after consuming the ramen I made them for lunch.

When people repeat how hard marriage and parenting can be, I always want to hear specifics.  When they only repeat that it is hard, my ever-curious mind wonders what *they* find hard about either, and if it is similar to what I find hard about it.

I can’t tune out sounds, for one, so I absorb every noise, kid and otherwise.  Like the leafblower on turbo right outside my window as I type this.  So when I hear the boys just BEGIN to fight, I feel triggered as I know what awaits.

As their bodies grow bigger, their fights are more intense and frequent.  And guy-ish.  I was able to stomach their toddler fights because of the adorable and innocent factor.  They are louder and meaner now, pushing each others’ buttons on purpose.

And a 20+ lb. lightweight toddler sister might get caught in the crossfires.

As the “wise” “adult,” I need to not react and spew out the reaction I am tempted to spew:  “Shut up, I can’t handle this fighting!”  And when my bucket is beyond empty, I so want to say, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

I have to pause, take a deep breath, and find out what made them escalate.  And most times, I just don’t want to.  I, too, want to go sunbathe at a public park and bounce when the kids make kid noises.

For me, the psychological toll that parenting takes is what comes to mind these days, when I think about parenting being hard.  I can’t hear myself think and it will only get louder once Olive is fully verbal.

I want to behave just like them at times but I must don this adult costume and not be reactive.  And when I do fail and say wrong things, I must apologize again, forgive myself and ask friends to remind me that there is no condemnation or else the shame spiral will take me for a ride.

For Year 1-9 to be Beyond Fine, both Kevin and I have to make sure our mental health gets put on The List.  This means more alone time for each of us, not alone time to pay bills, increase our household income while baby naps, email the teachers, schedule play dates, meet more family needs but alone time to NOT take care of tasks, alone time to do what delights us, even for half an hour, which is just what I got to do now, while baby continues to nap and boys dribble a ball, harmoniously, for now.

Sure, I want this to be better writing but nope, publishing as is or else I’d never blog.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Quieter of My Soul

I failed again.  During a visit from my mom, I drove her away the week before Thanksgiving.  Only God can help us understand where the other is coming from despite the immense cultural, language, love language, and generational barriers.

I have to study the fight-or-flight response further because I tend to fight, as in attempt to tackle the recurring issue while my mom leaves the room and her eyes check out, which only triggers my escalation as I chase her, begging to be heard.

I don’t want to get into more of this as it is too raw and unresolved.  And not entirely my story to tell.  I just know that we need help and this unhealthy cycle has to stop.

How do I respect and navigate around her need to flee, which is just as dire as my need to be heard.  She just wants to retreat into a safe space whether it is to wash a dish or wash Olive’s socks DURING the communication I begged for, which only triggers me, as keeping occupied with physical tasks has always been her coping mechanism while I need to talk about it.  THIS IS SO PAINFUL and beyond hard.

I explained to my kids at pick-up that Halmoni and I had a painful conflict and that in light of that, can they please gift me with extra grace, as in please be on task with picking up after yourselves, not fighting, and staying focused during homework.

Needless to say, I still had to repeat myself, break up fights, apologize for lashing out due to my own emotional tank being depleted, rush, clean up Olive’s messes, pray for help, then take them to their church activity on time.

Looking back on yesterday, I realized again that for me, the toughest part of being a parent is not just the physical demands like feeding (so much feeding), driving, clothing, decluttering, and organizing but the emotional demands, like disciplining without lashing out and parenting while I’ve taken an emotional hit.

I thought about my girlfriend who has yet to process her baby’s death as she is busy meeting the demands of her first child.  Or even now, as first responders near the Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks, have not been able to grieve because immediately following the mass shooting of last week, came the massive fires.

Underlying the frenzy of yesterday was also gratitude for my kids needing me so I could not afford to “dwell” on my feelings of guilt and sadness, *BUT* it truly is a balancing act as I do have to find some still small space to find out how I can communicate wiser so that my mom does not resort to her coping mechanism of taking flight.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches and many of us will gather with our families, all of us imperfect and broken, I pray for quieting of our souls amidst the many voices, inner chatter, unmet expectations, and unresolved childhood wounds:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) – emphasis mine

If you read this, please pray for me and my mom.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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